Volunteers extraordinaire shortlisted for 2014 Aspect National Recognition Awards

FOR Michelle and Shane Finlay, of Charlestown, autism hits very close to home.

Their 11-year-old son, Thomas, was diagnosed with the condition when he was three.

Like most parents in their situation, the news was a shock to the Finlays as they began a journey into the unknown.

Yet with the help of family, friends and Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), they have adjusted to the situation.

For the past few years, they have been giving back to the organisation that has schooled Thomas for about 10 years.

"We didn't know what we could do to help the school at the time," Mrs Finlay said.

"It started small with selling chocolates, but we didn't know how big it would get."

Big is an understatement.

The couple are some of the most dedicated volunteers in the country and have helped raised more than $150,000 for Autism Spectrum Australia.

They have run numerous charity events since 2007, including the Frock On fashion parade, the Autism Awareness Race Day and the Light it Blue Picnic.

The family home was even dressed in Christmas lights between 2008 and 2012, raising awareness and attracting media attention.

Now it's the Finlays turn for recognition.

April is World Autism Month and the couple were shortlisted for the "Above and Beyond" volunteers' award at the 2014 Aspect National Recognition Awards, which were being judged as The Star went to print.

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